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QSII win a boost for young entrepreneurs

Mosaic Manufacturing
Team members of Mosaic Manufacturing, from left, Mitch Debora, Derek Vogt, Danny Lloyd, Heather Evans and Chris Labelle, celebrate after taking the top prize in the Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative. Photo by Jim McLellan

After four months of planning, preparation and development, the students in the Queen’s Summer Innovation Initiative (QSII) made their final pitch presentations to a panel of judges. In front of a roomful of professors, peers, media and industry professionals, each business team made the case why their company should take the top prize. For a precious few minutes they succinctly explained their product, what they had achieved so far, and what they planned on doing with the money at stake before being needled with tough questions from the judges.  

For the summer break, the students assembled into small teams and were given a crash course in entrepreneurship, innovation and business management before brainstorming an idea for a start-up business. With $2,500 in seed money each team set about building and designing their businesses from the ground up, collaborating and competing with each other along the way.

“The students make real companies and they run them independently, generating commercial revenue,” says Greg Bavington, Executive Director of the Queen’s Innovator Connector, who oversees QSII. “It’s a program that we wanted to be as realistic as possible, giving students a chance for experiential learning outside of the classroom. They’re learning how to create and manage businesses; we’ve just removed some of the risks of entrepreneurship.”
To make QSII more available to a broader group of students, those participating are paid a stipend while they work on their businesses.

“Paying our students to participate makes us an anomaly in university entrepreneur internships. Neglecting to pay the students or making the students pay to participate creates a program that’s only accessible to those with the means to do so. This way we have the greatest number of applicants, making for a more intense competition process.”

Once up and running, the student-companies created products such as crowdfunding websites, hospital sanitization devices and a microbrewery. The team who took the top prize, Mosaic Manufacturing, invented an addition to consumer 3D printers, dramatically improving their ability to print in colour.

Winning the competition netted them a $40,000 prize to further build their business.

“After months of hard work, it’s fantastic to take first place,” says Chris Labelle (Comm’14). “We have access to excellent facilities and resources here at Queen’s and we couldn’t have won without the support we’ve received.”

Working out of the Integrated Learning Centre in Beamish-Munro Hall, all the QSII teams had access to SparQ Labs, a makerspace that has tools, fabricators and a milling machine to create their products. SparQ Labs is also accessible to Queen’s students throughout the academic year.

Mosaic and some of the other competitors have now moved their offices and operations to Innovation Park where they’ll continue to work on their products. For Mosaic, they have a clear plan of what to do next that includes hiring more staff, further developing their device and creating a crowdfunding campaign. Things don’t end there though, because they have big goals for the future. “We’ve spoken to a lot of people who have ideas about what they want to use 3D printers for, and the technology just isn’t there yet,” Mr. Labelle says. “We hope one day you can print anything you can imagine, and we want to help make that happen.”

This article is published in the Sept. 9 edition of the Gazette. Pick up your copy of the newspaper at one of the many locations around campus. Follow us on Twitter at @queensuGazette.